Legend has it that Kajir Ronghangpi, Daughter of Hok Ronghang was taken to and brought up in the Abode of Gods and Goddesses. On attaining divinity and being blessed with certain divine powers, Kajir Ronghangpi came down to Earth in search of her natural parents and brothers. Kajir Ronghanpi rebuilt the territory built by her father in and around present Kaziranga National Park area. She brought ‘Kindu’ (Rhinoceros) with her for tilling with. Kajir Ronghangpi went back to the abode of gods leaving the ‘Kindu’ their territory. It is believed that the name ‘Kaziranga’ came from the blessed Kajir Ronghanphi.
Kaziranga, the land where the rhinoceros roam free, carries the magic to transport you to a simpler time in its winds. In my quest to take the road less travelled, I discovered that Kaziranga is so much more than its world-renowned national park; a land shrouded in its legends.
Driving On the Trails
As I entered the park for the first time; I found myself surrounded by grassland and water bodies, with some trees sparsely located in between the grasses. Safaris are one of the best ways to explore the National Park. So under the afternoon sun, we started off in a Jeep, wondering what we might find lurking in its tall grasses. We had a few watchtowers from time to time on the stretch. The first thing I saw, was a mahout taking an elephant for a post-lunch stroll. The Jumbo was quite the cheerful fella and even posed for the photo. While driving around, we could see a lot of Rhinos, Elephants, Wild Buffalos, Deer and a lot of Birds; grazing, getting a sip in the watering hole or casually going on with their lives.
I suppose it’s peaceful just looking at them living harmoniously, in their natural habitat; the way it should be. We found a wild elephant hiding in the grass, who seemed a bit sick. And then there were some Rhinoceros with wounds. I also witnessed the symbiotic relationship between The Wild Water Buffalo and Myna, a win-win situation for both. The myna eating away at the insects on the buffalo and the buffalo offering protection in return. Being in the park, made me think about all that peace and how Homo Sapiens were ruining it for the other living beings; making a business out of everything that resulted in activities like poaching. Maybe a bit of empathy would do well for the world. Well, after all those fleeting thoughts left my head; 2 ½ hours later, we ended our little safari on a happy note by feeding the resident elephants.
Bumpy Ride In The Grasses
I stood on a bridge in the wilderness of Kaziranga, and as I looked on, the fog rose from the river that flowed beneath me; as if the water itself was leaving a cold breath. There were still a few minutes left for the sunrise on New Years’ Eve and the morning winds weren’t taking it easy on me, despite the two layers of clothing I wore. We got on the ride for this Safari – ‘the Elephant’ and set out into the grasses. In this region of the park, the elephant grass grew tall, lowering our visibility in the misty morning. We encountered a lot of One-horned Rhinoceros and had the chance to observe them from up close. We also found a few shy hog deer playing hide and seek in the tall grasses. A baby rhino viewed the elephant as a threat and started to protect his mother from it. I think it’s cute how the protective instincts kick-in when the mind thinks it’s facing a dangerous situation.
The elephant safari is great for observing these animals up close, though it can get a bit bumpy from the constant shuffling of feet by the elephant. Though we couldn’t get a glimpse of the elusive Bengal Tiger, it did make for a memorable experience.
Finding Something Rubbery
After completing my tryst with the wild, I found myself walking through a slanting rubber plantation, under the harsh noon sun. My hand ran through the bark of the trees, my fingers feeling their scars – the aftermath of the rubber extraction process. I walked around the orchard for about 15 minutes before went to visit the Smoke House. It’s fascinating to learn about the origins of the simplest materials present in our life. Here, we could see various stages of rubber manufacturing. The rubber that was to go on sale was kept for drying around the Smokehouse. There are ridges on the surface of this rubber. Newly-made rubber felt so tender upon touch as if it would just melt and disappear; very different from the finished product we use in our daily lives.
Exploring the Ethnic Huts
My next stop was an ethnic village, in the vicinity of the Kohora village. It consists of mostly concrete replicas of typical huts from various local tribes and communities. I found this especially intriguing, as it presented me with a glimpse of a different way of life; how their houses look like, what would they use to build it etc. And every hut had its own unique characteristic; some with pointy roofs in the front, some with a common porch and a lot of them were built on stilts, preventing the monsoon flood waters from entering their houses. At one point, I started to visualize the locals going about their lives in those huts. You also find a lot of statues of common people, depicting the daily life of the tribes.
Practical Information: To visit Kaziranga, one can take a flight to Guwahati and proceed down the road from there, which is about 200 km. If one wants to enjoy the journey and cut costs take a train instead to the Guwahati, Tezpur or any other railway station close to the National Park. There is a visitor centre near the range office to learn more about the park.